Book Review: Atlas of the Heart

This is not an unbiased review. I love Brené. I know, I make it sound like I know her personally. Never met the woman, yet I love her. At least, I love the public version of her. Her straight-shooting, big personality, tell it how she sees it, honest public self. I so appreciate her willingness to step back to get perspective and rest. I think she is smart and sassy and is very much the kind of person I like to be around, even if she does have a weird obsession with Texas football.

And so, I came to Atlas of the Heart knowing I would probably love it, just knowing that I would glean something important from it. Plus, the book is made for book lovers. Beautiful cover art. Thick pages. It looks and feels like a beautiful reference book and reads like a conversation with a friend. I wanted the book, received it as a 2021 Christmas gift, and made myself wait to read it, like a treat to be savored after reading other things that I had to read.

I was not disappointed.

Atlas of the Heart is a mix of story, research, and reference, all focused on the emotional landscape of our life. It is individual and communal, helping explain the connection to our own self and to others. I’ve honestly never read another book quite like it, almost like a dictionary story and how to guide. There were moments in which I was not as engaged in the book and my guess is that those were the parts discussing emotions I’m not yet ready to really dig into and deal with. I suppose that is a conversation to have with my therapist though…

The sections of Atlas of the Heart most interesting to me dealt with anguish, the difference between jealousy and envy (which helped me understand some biblical language too), awe and wonder, shame, joy and belonging vs. fitting in. Then, after all the description of emotion, Brené gives practical application for creating meaningful connection. Because really, that’s the whole point isn’t it?

We understand emotion to understand ourselves to understand others to build connection. Atlas of the Heart gives us the language to understand and name how we are feeling so that we can build connection with others.

If you want connection, begin with knowing yourself, begin with having the language to tell your own story. And in the telling of your story, and the listening of the stories others tell, you might just find the connection you are looking for. Atlas of the Heart can be your guide.

Published by Kris

Jesus follower, racing wife, mom of seven, United Methodist pastor... Trying to live a life worthy of my callings.

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